Ben Bova: No matter the burdens, it is a season of thanksgiving

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With the coming of Thanksgiving, it’s time to look around, take stock and think of what we have to thankful for.

This has been a tough year, for the nation, for the world and for me personally. The economic slump has hurt almost everyone. Our troops are being killed in Afghanistan. My wife died, after 38 years of the happiest existence a man can have.

So what’s there to be so thankful about?

I mean, take a look at Washington. The politicians have manufactured a crisis about health care and then completely muddled up their attempts to fix the problem.

Economists tell us the recession is ended, yet more than 10 percent of the American work force is unemployed.

The Taliban are alive and fighting in Afghanistan, killing our soldiers and financing their operations through sales of the local poppy crop to drug merchants.

A Muslim officer in the American Army killed 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, after deciding that his loyalty to Islam is more important to him than his loyalty to the United States.

Against all that, my personal problems of grief and loneliness are picayune; but that’s not much comfort when you’re sitting in an empty condo unit alone in the silence.

So what’s to be thankful about?

Well, starting from my own perspective and working outward:

I am thankful for the many good and dear friends who have rallied to my support. Going out to dinner at Cloyde’s or some other local restaurant may not seem like much, but it means a lot to me.

I was stunned at the expressions of sympathy I received from people all over the world who knew Barbara and admired, even loved, her. People have written and phoned, telling me stories of how she changed their lives, how warm and insightful she was. Their stories help me to realize that she was cherished by just about everyone she ever met.

Thanks to each and every one of you.

Moving outward toward Washington, I’m thankful that James Madison and the other men who wrote the Constitution did such a magnificent job. Health-care reform is something that everyone is in favor of, but no two people seem to agree on just what needs reforming and how to do it. Yet our system of government allows these various factions and ideologies to debate and vote. It allows the average citizen the chance to get into his or her congressperson’s face and tell the politicians what they want. The people have the ultimate power in our system — and they will express it at the ballot box next November.

Personally, I think we could improve health care a lot if we allow people to purchase insurance plans across state lines. And if we limit the crippling lawsuits that dog the medical profession. Asking politicians (most of whom are lawyers) to put limits on lawsuits is like asking them to vote term limits on themselves: it’s not going to happen without extraordinary effort by the voters.

But we have the means to do it, right there in the Constitution. Whether we use the powers that we have or not, I’m thankful that we have them. I’d be even more thankful if we used them and voted in some fresh blood next November.

There’s very little to be thankful about in Afghanistan. That part of the world has been ravaged by war and tribal infighting since the dawn of history.

It would be quite wonderful if President Barack Obama and his advisers could come up with a clear statement of what our goals are, as far as Afghanistan is concerned. Are we fighting to deny terrorists a base of operations there? That is a reasonable goal, I think. But we need to listen to the Army commanders on the ground to figure out how to accomplish that goal.

I would be very thankful if we could set a clear goal for our effort in Afghanistan and formulate a clear strategy for achieving that goal. And, once that goal is achieved, we could bring our troops back home.

That would be the best reason of all for giving thanks on Thanksgiving — and every other day of the year.

Naples resident Bova is the author of more than 120 books, including “The Return,” his latest futuristic novel. Bova’s Web site address is www.benbova.com

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